Thursday, September 4, 2014

Vacancy (2007)

It’s a shame about modern thriller movies. These days they might be getting a bit better, but for a while in the mid-2000s, it was pretty hopeless. While people had some decent ideas here and there, the bulk of what was coming out was either serial killer torture porn or Hitchcockian ideas backed up by a lack of any sense. Vacancy, though it is about snuff films, tends to be the latter - like the writer just went “hey, I have an idea about two people trapped in some place. Do I need anything beyond that, or am I just good?”

The studio, sniffing out the scent of cheap dollar bills with their usual acute senses, goes, “Nope! Just crank it out and put in some chase scenes and people with stupid masks! That’ll make a good movie!”

Alas, poor writer’s muse - we knew ye well.

Director: Nimrod Antal
Starring: Luke Wilson, Kate Beckinsale

Co-written with Michelle.

We start off this one with the longest and slowest credit sequence in the world, in which the names are revealed in some comic book-ish manner that’s more annoying than anything…this goes on for three fucking minutes, which is proof to me that this was just a mind-washing tactic from the producers to numb everyones’ brain into watching the slop that follows.

We then get two horrible people driving alone at night. They’re played by Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale, which in itself is proof this thing had no original ideas. “Hey, who should we get to star in our C-list thriller?” “Hmm, we need a man and a woman with little credibility or discerning for movies but who are juuuuuust barely attractive and well known enough to get people to recognize them...how about Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale?” Yes, I don’t even think anyone else was even considered.

Their thing is, they argue. A lot. They even argue about whether or not it was a squirrel or a raccoon they almost ran over in the road:

They actually argue about whether or not it was a raccoon or a squirrel. That's some of the first lines you hear them speak. Wow - a new low for horrible unlikable asshole characters.
And it's obviously a fuckin' raccoon. Rocket the Raccoon will be so pissed that you got that wrong.

My favorite part is probably when Beckinsale says she had a dream about Wilson killing her by strangling her at a party where her mother wouldn’t stop talking. I was just waiting for Wilson to go, “wait, honey, that wasn’t a dream! That really happened! I’m in therapy for my homicidal urges; remember?!”

Apparently, to my eternal shock, these two miserable dipshits are getting a divorce. I don’t know why, as clearly they’re perfect for one another: they’re both awful, mean-spirited and negative human beings.

They’re on this road because Wilson decided to take some detour off the Interstate because he thought he could get them to their destination faster. I guess he’s never seen a horror movie in his life. Seriously, who does something that stupid in real life? Just stick to the Interstate, you moron! What was his thought process even like?


“Hmm, maybe I should just stay on the Interstate highway. After all, that would make sense and get me where I’m going! Plus I’m with my wife who I’m divorcing soon, and I really want to be NOT stuck in a tiny car with her for too much longer!”


“Oh wait, no, I’m an asinine character and can’t do anything that a normal human would do. I’ll get myself lost on a deserted back road like something out of a horrible Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel where I have no idea where I’m headed at all, for no reason whatsoever. Yeah!”


“Then I’ll act like it’s my wife’s fault somehow and be a complete dick to her, because I’m a jackass of Statue of Liberty-sized proportions! Oh yeah! I’m the greatest human being on the planet!”

Gaze upon his soulless dead eyes - this is the face of no remorse and nothing holy...

Anyway, their car ends up breaking down on the side of the road and they go back and find some creepy backwoods motel where, when they enter, they hear the sounds of a woman screaming behind a closed door. A guy comes out who even Norman Bates would say isn’t trustworthy, and we see he has a remote control which he uses to pause the apparent video he was watching of a woman being murdered.


I’m not even kidding here - this is never addressed by either Wilson or Beckinsale. They never ask any questions of the guy, never talk about it among themselves and do not let it deter them from continuing to speak to the guy. Then again, as we’ll see later, our two lead characters aren’t really the top of the crop in terms of brain activity.

We see Wilson asking the guy where he can find a car repair shop open, which would make sense if we hadn’t seen in a previous scene that it was past 1:30 a.m. already.

"You gave me change and let me almost walk out the door for something you knew for a fact wasn't going to be true. You're so awesome, weird hotel pervert guy!"

What kind of car shop is open that late? Are you insane? Did you come from some magical land where car repair shops stayed open all night to accommodate the whimsy of your ridiculous driving choices? Unless you’re talking about a 24 hour service like AAA - which Wilson never mentions or even seems to think about - I’m pretty sure all of those places are closed at 2 in the fucking morning! Next time just stay on the highway, you fucking idiot.

They end up checking into the motel, which is so good it even has an open space in the rug for roaches to crawl out of:

That should be how the killers get in. Through that tiny little hole.

After some more bickering, Wilson turns on the TV (which is nothing but static) and says he needs to unwind before going to bed. It’s 2 in the fucking morning - how much could you possibly have to unwind? And I didn’t know loud annoying TV static was so comforting to you - but I’m not surprised. Then they pop in some of the videotapes left there and see…

I'm half expecting them to throw on a tape from one of the V/H/S movies. Also, wouldn't it be funny if one of the tapes they found was just a Disney movie? "Hmm, torture porn, torture porn, torture porn...oh, Aladdin! Cool!"

Seriously though, while snuff films are an interesting topic for a horror movie, this one doesn’t pull it off well. Instead we just get a bunch of ludicrous scares like this one where Wilson tries to make a call on the pay phone and then a car comes and tries to run him over, driving him back into the room, because yeah, if you don’t have any imagination, throwing in car chases and ridiculous, implausible things like that is the height of writing!


Apparently they also find out that the bad guys can enter the rooms through trap doors in the bathroom, which is why on the videos they find, it looks like the killers just appear out of nowhere.


Okay, that’s cool and all, but tell me one little thing - why the fuck don’t they just come in through the front door? The element of surprise is still there, and the place is still so secluded nobody else would see you. So why the trap doors? I think the answer is simple - because this movie is dumb as a box of rocks.

Seriously try to hold back your laughter at the scene where you see they’ve just nailed the goddamn windows shut to prevent their captives from escaping - what, so I guess bars or boards were out of stock at the local Home Depot so nails had to do, huh? Or is asking for at least one thing to make sense too much to ask?


Because this is one of those really stupid thrillers that could be over in five seconds if any amount of real world logic was applied, get this: the reason they can’t just open the door and fucking run for it, is because Wilson is paranoid they have guys waiting to catch and kill them outside. Yes, I get that they had some idiot in a car try to run them over, but come on; you’re IN THE WIDE OPEN WORLD. You aren’t locked in a room, you’re not maimed or injured, and you’re adults who are supposed to have some sense of how the world works. Make a fucking run for it. Being chased through the dark on a road that GOES somewhere, is infinitely better than being trapped in the place they want you to be so they can kill you.

This kind of story, with its limitations, would work fine as a 45-minute short film or something, because like I said, in any real world logical situation, this movie wouldn’t keep going for so long. The characters would run and it would be over a lot faster. But no. This movie doesn’t care about telling a plausible story that makes your brain work and keeps you on the edge of your seat - it’s just pandering garbage to the lowest common denominator, with the writers' attempts to make some kind of cool and original plot (i.e. two people locked in a room) foiled when they write themselves into a corner and don't have any clue how to move their story forward. So they just throw in car chases, over the top traps and “kidnapping” set-ups, pithy dialogue intended to be “dramatic” between the two leads and all manner of other stupid gimmicks to distract you from the ultimate fact that it has no real substance or anything of value to say.

I guess after that they go down in these tunnels and get scared by a bunch of rats, who I’m sure were pissed that they ended up here instead of as consultants for Ratatouille. Then they come out of the tunnels into the general store next to the motel.

You’d think THIS would be the end then, since clearly they are out in the open now and can probably escape. But nope! We have plenty more scenes of beating a dead horse to slog through joylessly...like the scene where a cop shows up, almost figures something out but then gets killed off by one of the killers before he can tell anybody about it! I’m NEVER tired of THAT scene! Not at ALL!

"I'm smart enough to tell something is a little weird...
...but not smart enough not to get killed!" And seriously, this cat-and-mouse goes on for like 10 fucking minutes before they kill this cop - GET IT OVER WITH. WE ALREADY KNOW WHERE YOU'RE GOING WITH IT.

Or how about the wonderful time when Beckinsale actually gets into a car and attempts to drive away from the scene but still can’t make it out, because any competence in our main characters is unappealing - it makes the clearly drunk-off-their-asses writers (and audience for that matter) feel insecure:


Then she gets in a fight with Mr. Hotel Manager Snuff Film Man and ends up falling on her stomach on top of a gun that was dropped. This is seriously, no kidding, the way she is able to turn the tables and shoot him multiple times:


So I guess the film ends with Beckinsale and Wilson reuniting and being happy again...at least until, presumably, they get home and end up divorcing after all and hating one another again. Which would be funny to me except I really just didn’t give a shit about anything in this movie.

How was I supposed to? There was nothing to latch onto here! It was as empty a film as any I’ve seen. It was an empty piggy bank of a movie; a complete void of thought or originality. This was a bland and generic film that was very much a product of its time - similar silly movies like P2, Disturbia, The Collector and I Know Who Killed Me were also coming out at the time, i.e. films that thought they were being clever, acted like they were being clever, but didn’t want to put any real effort into actually BECOMING clever.

This movie is one marble rolling endlessly in an echoing, bare cranium. Hitchcock is frowning upon you, Vacancy.

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.